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East Palestine Recovery - A Study in Hypocrisy

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Norfolk Southern’s Promises vs. Lobbying Reality

According to a report in the Washington Post on February 3, Norfolk CEO Alan Shaw told local reporters in East Palestine that he wants a response to the catastrophe of February 4, 2023 that he and the community can be proud of. Meanwhile, lobbyists working for Norfolk Southern and other railroads are pushing back against the proposed railroad reform bill, known as the Railway Safety Act, that was introduced last year by Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and J.D. Vance.

As Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg described it, “They will often say the right things, but then through their actions, and especially through their lobbying, move in a different direction.”

According to the article in the Washington Post, over the past year, the nation’s five largest rail companies spent around $17 million on lobbying. These lobbyists have opposed even the most basic upgrades like requiring that engineers have special breathing equipment onboard in case of fires or explosions.

Consider this. A year has gone by, and Congress has not yet had even a single vote on the reform safety legislation.

Norfolk Southern has instituted a few improvements on their own, including improving crash detection and first responder training. They also are the first railroad to allow their employees to report safety issues confidentially to the government. (Wasn’t that already required by law? Apparently not.) Other rail lines had promised to do the same, but they have not followed through on this.

A year after the catastrophe, there are still chemical hotspots in the soil in East Palestine, and soil testing continues. But the harmful exposures that occurred cannot be undone, and these may lead to cancers and other health problems in the future. The question remains: Will Norfolk Southern be held fully accountable for these?

Ron Prosek is the Treasurer and Co-Founder of FaCT.

Friday March 29th, 2024
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